The Toby Willis trial, which was scheduled to begin on March 1, has been delayed until May 31. According to reports, the continuance was requested by Willis’ attorney, Michael Shipman — who suggested his client may not be competent to stand trial. Willis, who is the patriarch of The Willis Clan musical group, is accused of raping a child.
As reported by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, agents initiated their investigation of Toby Willis on August 29, 2016, at the request of Tennessee District Attorney General Ray Crouch.
— milkysearch.com (@milkysearch) March 2, 2017
Amid the investigation, the agents determined “Willis had a sexual encounter approximately 12 years ago with an underage female. The Tennessee man was subsequently charged with the rape of a child.
Upon learning that he was being criminally charged, Toby Willis fled to Greenville, Kentucky, where he was later arrested as a fugitive and transported back to Tennessee.
— The Willis Clan Fans (@willisclanfans_) November 24, 2016
As he was charged with a felony, Willis had a legal right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days of his arrest. However, he waived that right and the hearing was postponed to a later date.
On November 30, Michael Shipman petitioned the court for another continuance, as he was beginning to question whether Toby Willis is competent to stand trial. The Tennessean reports the continuance was granted and the defendant is expected to submit to a mental health evaluation.
Toby Willis’ trial is scheduled to begin with an evidentiary hearing on May 31.
Toby and his wife Brenda are the parents of 12 children — who gained national attention in 2014 when they were introduced as contestants in the ninth season of America’s Got Talent.
Although The Willis Clan made it to the quarterfinals of the popular talent show, they were eliminated during one of the final rounds.
Before their appearance on America’s Got Talent, the family was featured in a 7-episode reality program titled The Willis Clan — which was produced by RIVR Media and distributed by Great American Country in 2011 and 2013.
However, their second reality series The Willis Family, which debuted after their appearance on America’s Got Talent, gained international attention.
The series, which was produced by Heart Bridge Media and distributed by the TLC Network, consisted of 13 episodes — which aired in 2015 and 2016. Unfortunately, as reported by People, the show was canceled in May 2016.
Interestingly, Toby Willis’ trial is scheduled to begin one year after the cancellation of his family’s reality show. Although TLC removed the show’s web page from its site, the cancellation of the program does not appear to be related to Willis’ arrest or pending trial.
As reported by Chicago Tribune, Toby Willis and his family suffered a heartbreaking tragedy when he was a teen.
In 1994, six of Toby’s siblings were killed in a devastating accident. According to reports, the family was traveling to a birthday party when their minivan struck debris on an Illinois highway and burst into flames. Although Toby, his parents, and two other siblings survived, the six youngest children were killed.
Despite dealing with a tremendous tragedy, Toby Willis was later married and fathered 12 children of his own. In addition to embracing conservative Christian values, Toby and Brenda encouraged their children to develop their individual talents as athletes, dancers, musicians, and singers.
The Willis children, who range in age from five to 23, also perform together in a dancing and singing group called The Willis Clan.
Although the family has enjoyed great success as entertainers, Toby Willis’ arrest and trial prompted the family to delete all their social media accounts and cancel all future performances indefinitely.
Brenda Willis said she was “shocked and devastated” when her husband was arrested and charged with raping a child. However, she also stated that she and her family have given the District Attorney’s Office their “complete support.”
Prosecutors confirmed Toby Willis’ trial would begin on May 31 pending the outcome of his mental health evaluation.
[Featured Image by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation]